We are meditating on Joy because in our meditations on Evil, Rabbi Heschel reminded us that holiness is the prime medicine for evil.

Short narration of selected lines from Revelations of Divine Love by Mother Julian. Video by Lloyd Ezra Fortune

What is holiness?  How do we see holiness in ourselves and others?  I am proposing that in dark times, holiness is detected by the twin realities of gift of Joy and Courage (which we will consider in later DMs).  The two are very much related.

Julian of Norwich (1342-1429) is a trustworthy and down to earth teacher about Joy because she did not live in a time of peace and serenity but during the time of  the most severe plague in all of Europe—the bubonic plague of the 14th century. 

Rejecting denial as an option, she chose a path of depth and courage and dared to journey deep into the capacities of her own soul.  She also counseled others from her anchorage attached to a simple church in Norwich.  

he Mississippi Mass Choir with soloist Mosie Burks perform “When I Rose This Morning” by Jerry Smith. Uploaded to YouTube by malacomg

In her deep soul journeys, she found joy—lots of it—in spite of the very bad news going on all around her.  She invites us to do the same.

Julian, the first woman to write a book in English, actually invented the English word enjoy.  That is how important her finding joy in the midst of peril and suffering was to her.  She adapted it from an old French word, enjoier, meaning rejoicing.

This reminds me of a young artist I knew years ago who lived and painted in a tough neighborhood in San Francisco and when I asked him what he wanted to do with his life he paused and responded, “to make revelry hip.”  

Webster’s defines revelry as “noisy partying or merrymaking.”  Another name for revelry might be celebration.

I trust Julian when she teaches about Joy because she tasted deep suffering (it is very likely that she lost a husband and a child in the plague)—but she also knows that joy is deeper than grief.

“Mothering God” (Oxford Girls’ Choir). Composed for the Diocese of Oxford “Church at Home” service, Mothering Sunday 2021. Oxford Youth Choirs

We have seen Aquinas talk about the “Sheer Joy” of God.  Julian spells out what she calls the “five supreme delights of divinity”:

God rejoices that he is our Father.
God rejoices that he is our Mother.
God rejoices that he is our Beloved and we are his true lover.
Christ rejoices that he is our Brother.
Jesus rejoices that he is our Savior.

These are five supreme joys in which divinity never ceases being joyful.  

To be continued.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 25-29.   

And Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, (2015 version), pp. 6f.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Julian of Norwich and the Hazelnut. Detail of a painting by Ronaldo Tuazon, cover image of Matthew Fox’s book, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic – And Beyond.

Queries for Contemplation

“Revelry” and “Revelation” seem to be related words.  How much of revelation is revelry or celebration for you?  And how much of celebration is revelation for you?

Recommended Reading

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self

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7 thoughts on “Julian of Norwich on Joy”

  1. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Thank you, to Mathew and the DM team, for your gift of joy bestowed upon us all today. I swooned, I tapped my foot, I rose up and danced, clapping my hands and singing along… then I sat still for a moment and was held in the sweet embrace of the Mother that brought joy filled tears to my eyes. Awe… how good it is to celebrate the beautiful spirit of joy! Thank you so much for this precious blessing of joy, creatively and freely given and gratefully partaken of and celebrated this day!

    1. Avatar

      Thank you Matthew, Jeanette and DM team and all readers! Such Wisdom and Joy in the Meditation! I’m dancing and singing with you!! I pray to keep this Spirit alive!

  2. Avatar

    I also want to thank the DM team for sharing the Spirit of Joy in today’s DM music videos!!!

    To answer Matthew’s meditation about the interrelationship of revelation and revelry, I am faithfully and mystically reminded that God’s Living Spirit of Love~Wisdom Is Always Joyful, Beautiful, New, Creative, and Flowing in the Sacred Process of the Eternal Present Moment within, through, and among us in our unique human and Sacred Eternal Souls, and within our ongoing co-Creation~Incarnation~Evolution of God’s Spirit of Loving Diverse Oneness in Her~His sacred multidimensional-multiverse Cosmos….

  3. Avatar

    While Julian of Norwich is truly a mystic for our times, and indeed for all time, I question some details given here. She herself tells us that she received her “Shewings” during a serious illness at her mother’s home. The priest and the altar boys were present. She tells us that she was thirty years old.

    The presumption that she was married and lost a husband and child in the plague is speculation. I would also like to know when and how the date of her death was ascertained. All we know is that she was still alive 1416 because she was mentioned in two wills of that date. There are two versions of her Revelations, the shorter and the longer one. The shorter one may have been prepared to be submitted to a bishops’ court. (In England there was never any inquisition. Heresy was tired in a bishop’s court. There are accounts of Margery Kempe’s encounters with an inquiry into her life and teachings.)

    Julian submits her writings to Holy Church. She says she does not understand hell but believes in it because Holy Church teaches it. From her anchorhold she could smell the fires used to burn heretics.

    Her insights are profoundly helpful for us today. She tells us that in all that she saw, “Love was his meaning.” In a moving passage Jesus shows her his mother. It was for us that he made her so beautiful.

    The book, possibly dictated to a priest, is well named. Her Shewings are indeed revelations of divine love.

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